What Would Shawn Do? How to Become a Human Lie Detector


I caught my new receptionist in a bald-faced lie; I have this sneaking suspicion she’s done it more than once. How do I know when someone is lying to me? I don’t want to get duped!



People lie about many things: forgetting to lock the cage, liking your outfit, or why they’re late to work—again. Whatever the lie, it’s usually because they’re embarrassed, don’t want to upset someone, don’t want to get involved in petty hassles, or are avoiding punishment. Sometimes, liars lie due to more serious psychological problems, such as delusions or extreme vanity.

Any time you have to relate to people (your staff, your clients), it behooves you to know how to spot a lie. Actions speak louder than words, and it’s the body language you should pay attention to. Here are the signs to look for:

• Speaking in a high-pitched, fast-paced, stuttering voice
• Constantly swallowing and/or clearing throat
• Avoiding eye contact
• Looking around and looking out from the corners of their eyes
• Moistening their lips
• Blinking rapidly
• Rubbing the throat
• Crossing arms over their chest
• Constantly touching the face, especially the mouth, ears, and nose (as if covering them)
• Scratching the head or the back of the neck
• Closed, descending, and insecure poses
• Tapping hands or feet
• Always looking down
• Constantly moving from one place to another or constantly changing poses
• Projecting parts of their body (feet) to an escape route (door)

Obviously, just because someone exhibits one or more of these signs doesn’t make that person a liar. Sometimes, rapid blinking is caused by dry eyes, or throat clearing is a nervous tick. Use a combination of body language and other cues to make an educated guess about whether someone is telling the truth.